In my mind, when I hear the word networking, I think of human beings and not computers. Unfortunately, most people think about social networking and I will refrain from using the names of those websites because they make enough money as it is. Something I learned too late in the game is that success depends on many things, and relationships are a key element to making things happen.
Building a network of people and professionals around you is vital to developing yourself and pursuing your career goals. Finding others to help you grow is integral to a successful career. What I find most people struggling with are where and how to begin.
The people that I know who seem to be connected to everyone are those people who are outgoing, friendly, and meet people effortlessly. They aren’t afraid to take time out of an otherwise busy schedule to chat and find out about others. For students, they don’t need to look any further than the classroom. Peers and classmates have the potential to some day become distinguished professionals.
A simple step I encourage people to take is to begin to job shadow and interview professionals in their chosen field. Most of my peers are happy to allow people to follow them around to see what their day is like. Before you know it, you have gotten to know someone out in the working world that you can potentially call on later for a possible internship experience or job lead. Who knows, they may be posting an open position at some point and your name sounds familiar when it crosses their desk. Not only does job shadowing give you the opportunity to build your network, it allows you to start to gain a better idea of the types of settings you may or may not enjoy.
Another excellent way to develop your network of professionals is by volunteering your expertise. If you have just received a professional certification, some of them require volunteer teaching to get you started. It also allows you to get out and interact in facilities with people and professionals you otherwise would not have had the chance to.
Social media and online networking have their place, don’t get me wrong. I have found they do a better job for me with helping to stay connected to people that I have already met and want to stay in touch with and have helped less with meeting new people. To me, nothing replaces that face to face time.
Conferences are another great place to meet new and sometimes influential people. Don’t be afraid to approach others and introduce yourself. You might have to come out of your shell a little bit, but it will pay off I promise. Your professional memberships also come in handy by not only giving you access to reduced rates at conferences but some of them offer an online presence as well. This is another opportunity for some online networking that may be of help.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to tell people what you are up to and what you are looking for. I always keep my ears open for potential opportunities and who might benefit from them. If you share this with trusted friends, family, and peers they can keep an eye out for you as well. Hopefully, some of your strongest relationships are with your friends and family. Your network doesn’t always have to be with people specific to your profession. Knowing business people, educators, influential people and otherwise from various professions can prove helpful down the road.